I cried on the tube when Prince died recalls Purple Rain frontman Jimi Love, in Ipswich tonight

Jimi Love of Purple Rain - A Celebration of Prince. Photo: Contributed

Jimi Love of Purple Rain - A Celebration of Prince. Photo: Contributed - Credit: Archant

Purple Rain - A Celebration of Prince plays Ipswich Corn Exchange tonight and Southend’s Cliffs Pavilion on November 8. I spoke to the nine-piece band’s frontman and founder Jimi Love who was born in Harlow and grew up near Ipswich.

Jimi Love, N8 H and Yasmin of Purple Rain - A Celebration of Prince. Photo: Contributed

Jimi Love, N8 H and Yasmin of Purple Rain - A Celebration of Prince. Photo: Contributed - Credit: Archant

Q: You’ve been a fan of Prince since you were a kid. How did you feel when news broke he’d died...

I was just heading to work in Leicester Square, Emma (Blakk) from the band called me in tears and told me but I couldn’t really take it in. Then I was on the tube just after the call and Purple Rain came on my iPod random playlist... I was stood in the corner of this packed carriage and could just feel tears running down my face. I don’t think the sadness I feel at never seeing him play live again will ever go.

Q: It must be emotional performing now he’s gone...

Emma Blakk of Purple Rain - A Celebration of Prince. Photo: Contributed

Emma Blakk of Purple Rain - A Celebration of Prince. Photo: Contributed - Credit: Archant

It really is, especially with all the fans there too... when you play Purple Rain and 1,000 people are singing along with tears in their eyes it’s really hard not to get choked up. Keeping the memory of his live shows and the genius of all the wonderful musical gifts he left us is what keeps us doing it.


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Q: Tonight’s Ipswich show is homecoming gig...

Absolutely, it’s the first time bringing the full show to Ipswich... we’ll have loads of family and friends there so it’s really exciting. I grew up in Henley village and lived there from about age seven to 20.

Andy T and N8 H of Purple Rain - A Celebration of Prince. Photo: Contributed

Andy T and N8 H of Purple Rain - A Celebration of Prince. Photo: Contributed - Credit: Archant

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Q: You have your Godfather to thank for getting you into Prince; I understand he played Let’s Go Crazy in his car and you were blown away?

It took about 30 seconds and I was hooked. I was blown away by the energy...

Emma Blakk and Tony T of Purple Rain - A Celebration of Prince. Photo: Contributed

Emma Blakk and Tony T of Purple Rain - A Celebration of Prince. Photo: Contributed - Credit: Archant

Q: I heard you washed cars to earn the £10 needed to buy the Purple Rain vinyl, your first Prince album...

I did (laughs). It seemed to take forever, as everything does when you’re 10-years-old. As soon as I had the money I went to Andy’s Records in town and got it, the first album I ever bought. I still remember unwrapping it and being so excited.

Q: Prince was always number one for you...

I loved music as a kid and thought performers like Michael Jackson and Freddie Mercury were as good as it got, but Prince was in a league of his own. As soon as I heard Prince he was straight to the top, and has remained ever since... I did love my rock and blues as well.

Q: I heard you spent your late teens and early 20s playing in various bands but never learnt any Prince tracks because you were a bit scared too..

I think I played just about everything else, but yes Prince’s music was a bit intimidating to take on. One November night I was playing a gig in a cover band and someone demanded it. I knew the chords so just went for it without thinking.

Q: Purple Rain’s been going 12 years now, I understand the idea came from a friend who suggested you do a Prince night one New Year’s Eve...

Adrian, who used to run the Cock and Pye, basically bet me I couldn’t do it... my reaction was a bit like when Marty McFly gets called “chicken” in Back to the Future. My friend Tom Edwards, who sadly passed away earlier this year, was also a massive Prince fan and helped me get it together. Prince was the musician’s musician so we didn’t have any trouble putting a band together. It was so much fun... Prince’s music is so eclectic and influenced by all the other styles I love.

Q: Back when you were a kid, devouring Prince’s albums, did you ever think you’re be celebrating his music for a career...

Not at all, I didn’t start playing guitar until I was about 15 and had a massive Prince album collection already by then. I guess his music influenced my decision to become a singer quite a lot without realising it... he definitely gave me a passion for music, especially the guitar.

Q: You look like him, but you don’t regard yourself as a Prince impersonator...

Prince was peerless and to try to “be him” is something only he alone could ever do. I’ve always done it as a fan who loves the music... that’s the whole focus of the show, real music by real musicians.

Q: Is it true you played into the wee hours for a club full of angry Prince fans in 2008 when he cancelled his Croke park gig in Dublin with four days notice...

Yeah, we ended up flying over to play in a club... walking on stage to a silent room with a few hundred people just staring at you, but three-and-a-half hours later there was nothing but love and smiles in the room.

Q: When you’re not performing with Purple Rain you’re part of comedian and musician Bill Bailey’s tour crew; that must be fun...

So much fun and being such an amazing musician himself we get along great. The highlight was when he headlined a stage at Sonisphere festival at Knebworth and asked me to play lead guitar in the band... we were on between Limp Bizkit and Slipknot.

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